Occasionally the local Asian shop has Drumstick Leaves (also known as Moringa, Mungarai Keerai and Murungai Keerai) and we are always excited to bring a bunch home. One of our favourite ways to use them is to make a Drumstick Leaf Sambar. It is a standard sambar with an onion tadka, into which the cooked leaves are stirred. The flavours are allowed to develop and the sambar is served with rice.
The leaves, unless very tender, are quite tough to digest, so make sure you cook them well.
This recipe can also be made with the various types of Amaranth leaves.
Mungarai Keerai Sambar | Drumstick Leaves Sambar
1 bunch drumstick leaves
0.5 cups toor dal
0.25 tspn turmeric powder
0.25 tspn ghee or Indian Sesame Oil
1 tspn brown mustard seeds
1 tspn urad dal
0.5 tspn fenugreek seeds
0.5 tspn cumin seeds
2 Indian dried red chillies
8 – 10 curry leaves
1 Tblspn ghee or Indian Sesame Oil
1 large onion, or several small onions, chopped
0.25 tspn asafoetida powder (hing)
1.5 tspn sambar powder
0.2 tspn turmeric powder
small amount of tamarind
Put the toor dal on to cook with the turmeric powder and few drops of ghee or sesame oil until the dal is very soft and mushy. Depending on your dal and stove it will take 30 – 50 minutes.
Remove the drumstick leaves from the stalks and wash them well. Steam or simmer them until tender. This takes 5 or so minutes, depending on the tenderness of the leaves.
Soak the tamarind in 1 cup warm water for 20 mins, then strain to remove all the seeds and fibres. Push the paste through the sieve and set paste and liquid aside.
When the dal is cooked, mash it a little or pulse it with an immersion blender. Add more water if needed until the desired consistency is reached.
Heat the Tblspn ghee in a kadhai or medium pan. Add the mustard seeds and allow to pop. Add the methi seeds, urad dal, cumin seeds, dried chillies, and asafoetida powder. When the seeds and dal begin to turn golden, add the curry leaves – they will splutter.
Then add the onions, and saute until transparent. Add the tamarind extract, sambar powder, turmeric powder, salt, and 1 tspn ghee and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the cooked drumstick leaves and dal. Mix well and bring back to the boil for a few minutes. Transfer the sambar to a serving dish and drizzle 1 tspn ghee on top. Serve and enjoy.
recipe noes and alternatives
This really is an excellent sambar. Picking the moringa leaves from the stems takes a little time, and is a good activity to do when you are watching TV or listening to a podcast. I do it in two rounds – stripping the leaves quickly from the stems by running my fingers down the stems, then going through the leaves to find any large pieces of stem, and removing the leaves from them. The stems make excellent mulch or compost.
Make sure to wash the leaves very well in 3 or 4 changes of water.
And if you have left over sambar, just mix with a cooked rice, for Moringa Rice! Ssshhh, don’t tell anyone it is leftovers, it is perfectly good with a meal the next day. I love cooking idlii rice and often use it for dishes like this.